Globalization is a loaded word with many different connotations and interpretations of its consequences. While some people believe that Globalization is diluting world cultures while intensifying disparities in wealth and power, others believe that Globalization is “flattening” disparities and infinitely increasing connections between people and cultures for the better and there are a number of other viewpoints that chart the proverbial ever-shrinking blank spaces on a map. Regardless of your opinion on Globalization, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a classic example of how Globalization and intercultural connections have contributed to the evolution and development of cultures over time.
A hybrid holiday of the Catholic celebration of Día de los Santos (All Saints Day) and the pre-Columbian Aztec celebration of the dead, Uyemicalhuitl, Día de los Muertos as it is celebrated in its many variations throughout Latin America is proof of the intercultural exchanges that have taken place since Europeans arrived in the Americas. While the holiday is primarily celebrated in Mexico and other Central American countries, Día de los Muertos celebrations are also popular throughout South America and are becoming increasingly popular in North America due to the rapid growth of Latino communities in the United States.
One of the primary traditions of Día de los Muertos is the decoration of gravestones and creation of altars celebrating the dead. This is becoming increasingly popular throughout California and the US as communities of latinos and gringos alike are coming together to create exhibitions and galleries featuring Día de Los Muertos altars. In the past, I-House has honored this tradition by displaying an altar in the Great Hall. Residents contributed items to the altar and decorated their own calaveritas (little skulls made out of sugar).
Another permeating tradition is Día de los Muertos parades. Participants dress up in elaborate costumes and paint their faces and bodies to recall the lives and spirits of their ancestors. While these parades are common throughout Latin America, Los Angeles has one of the largest parades in the US. This year, San Francisco will be holding its 26th parade and altar exhibit in the Mission and there will also be a handful of Día de los Muertos related events in Berkeley.
The geographic expansion of Día de los Muertos and its increasing presence in US culture reflect how culture is constantly evolving and how culture simultaneously influences and is influenced by the people who practice it. While we often think of cultures from various parts of the world being inherently different and static, as people from different parts of the world interact through business, travel, education, and friendships, they share parts of their cultures and therefore contribute to the evolution of cultures all over the world.